Split Leesburg Commission votes to hold fireworks show despite COVID-19 concerns

Leesburg Commissioner Jay Hurley

After some contentious and emotional debate Monday night, a split Leesburg Commission made it official – the city will host its annual fireworks show on July 4.

The Commission had heard a request from City Manager Al Minner on June 8 to cancel the event for public safety reasons due to the ever-increasing size of the crowds – many of whom come from other communities to see the annual show. During that meeting, Minner said his concerns weren’t really based on the COVID-19 pandemic – Leesburg was reporting just 48 cases of the potentially deadly virus at the time.

On Monday night, Minner said in addition to his concerns for public safety, the fact that COVID-19 cases had increased dramatically – they more than doubled to 97 in a two-week period – also should be considered.

Commissioner Dan Robuck III agreed and said he had spoken to a high-ranking medical official at UF Health Leesburg Hospital who said the fireworks show definitely should be canceled. Commissioner John Christian also supported the idea of calling off the event.

But Commissioner Jay Hurley, as he had done on June 8, made an impassioned plea for the fireworks show to go on. He said the majority of the recent uptick in Coronavirus cases in Florida was in metropolitan areas and the southern portion of the state. He also pointed out the immense amount of unrest and turmoil across the country and said it would be a good thing to bring people together to celebrate our freedom and independence.

“I’m 110 percent for celebrating our independence on the Fourth of July in Leesburg,” he said to a rousing round of applause for packed-house audience at the Venetian Center.

Commissioner Mike Pederson agreed and the deciding vote fell to Mayor Elise Dennison, who voted yes and then encouraged attendees to practice social distancing and take all precautions possible.

The festivities for the event will begin at 6 p.m. at Venetian Gardens. September Dogs will perform a concert beginning at 7 p.m. and there will be a kids play zone, a juggler, a balloon artist, a photo booth, a stilt walker, a water ski show, festive foods, vendors and more.

The Leesburg Partnership, which is putting on the event, has promised to maintain social distancing guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Attendees are being asked to limit their groups to 10 people or less, remain six feet away from others and wear masks when appropriate. Hand-washing stations equipped with soap and sanitizer stations also will be staged throughout the event.

Viewing of the fireworks show, which will begin at 9:15 a.m., also can be done from vehicles or boats. Those who aren’t feeling well or have tested positive for COVID-19 are being asked to stay home. The Partnership also is warning that attendees will be at their own risk and they are not liable for any incidences of the Coronavirus.

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